Saturday, 30 June 2012

Arts Night: First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa

Last evening I was very pleased to attend Arts Night at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa. Organized by Joycelyn Loeffelholz and hosted by Jodi McIntosh, Arts Nights are a unique way to bring local artists together in front of an audience to "share their particular art form, converse, and answer questions."

Each event includes an appearance by an author, a visual artist, and a musician, who deliver a 20-minute presentation about their chosen medium, why it best suits their creative impulse, and any other related topics. For my part, I talked about my life-long love of stories, storytelling, and books, I introduced Blood Passage and Marcie's Murder, the first two books in the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series, and I explained how crime fiction gives me an opportunity to develop several themes in the series related to law enforcement officers, society's demands for justice, and the need to understand why evil exists in the world. I have to say that I found this format much more satisfying for me than a simple reading, since I was able to talk about some of my objectives as an author and carry on a conversation with the audience.

I was fortunate to share the podium last night with two other very talented individuals. Janis Miller Hall is an Ottawa visual artist working in contemporary realism in a variety of media, including pastel, acrylic, oil, and encaustic. She showed three works last night, including "Life Revealed," "Mayan Vendor," and "Up Close and Personal," all of which can be seen on her website. In addition, Maike Dombrowsky is a sound practitioner who talked about sound healing and her own personal experiences with the healing power of sound. More information on this subject can be found at the Ottawa Sound Healing Conference 2012 website.

I want to thank Joycelyn for organizing such a remarkably effective event, Jodi for hosting, and also thank everyone who attended despite the incredible heat. I encourage everyone in the Ottawa area to find out more about these Arts Nights and to come out when they resume in the fall. They really are a very unique way of interacting with artists in your community. I'd also encourage those of you who live in other parts of the world where these kind of events do not take place to consider starting one of your own.

As a final note, when I was leaving the church I noticed the bronze bust just inside the front door that I've included at the top of this post. This memorial is a tribute to the incomparable Lotta Hitschmanova, a Canadian humanitarian who was the driving force behind the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada from 1945 to 1982. USC Canada is an international development organization that started as a small group of aid workers sending supplies to war-torn Europe for relief and reconstruction, as Wikipedia explains. Canadians from my generation recall with fondness the television commercials we all watched as children that made her a household name throughout Canada, and it's a pleasure and an honour to include her memorial in this post.


  1. I just came across your posting, Michael, and wanted to express my appreciation for your evocative reminiscence of USC Canada's founder, Dr Lotta Hitschmanova. Three years ago, I had the honour of coordinating the 100th anniversary celebrations of Lotta's birth, and I can't tell you how many times I heard or read similar sentiments expressed by people who had absolutely no association with USC at all. She touched an emotional chord in people quite unlike anyone else of her generation. For this reason, we have set up a website in her honour,, where people can still hear her famous voice or learn about her amazing contribution to Canadian social history. Thanks again!

    David Rain
    USC Canada

  2. Thank you very much, David. I'm pleased you found the post and I appreciate the feedback. The website dedicated to Dr. Hitschmanova looks excellent, and it's great to hear her voice again, after so many years. It really is hard to explain why she had such a positive effect on us, but there's no doubt that she did.

    That night at the Unitarian Congregation Arts Night I found that the combination of artists and media seemed to inspire a synergy in each of us. For me, seeing Dr. Hitschmanova's memorial added another dimension of inspiration, like a fourth voice speaking to us. It was very memorable.

    Thanks again for your comments, and all the best in your endeavours at USC.